With the first quarter of the 2004 regular season in the books, the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers are exploring the possibility of making some personnel changes this week.
Most, if not all of those changes, will likely come on the offensive side of the ball. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s unit ranks 26th overall and has scored just three touchdowns and 39 total points in four games.
Some of the changes are already coming to fruition. For instance, Kenyatta Walker, who saw significant playing time on Sunday in place of right tackle Todd Steussie, will likely get on the field again against the New Orleans Saints.
“He played 48 percent of the plays and [Todd] Steussie played 52 percent,” said Gruden. “Our plan all along was that Kenyatta Walker will play. He’s had some injuries. We did split time yesterday with him and Steussie and that might be part of the plan again this week.”
According to Gruden, Walker, the team’s 2001 first-round draft pick, played well against the Denver Broncos.
“He did some good things,” Gruden said of Walker. “He showed some thump in the running game. I thought he did do some good things. We only had the ball three plays in the fourth quarter. Obviously, we’d like to have the ball some more. But I thought he did do some good things.”
Although he was pleased with the way his offensive line played on Sunday, Gruden said younger players like second-year guard/center Sean Mahan and second-year T Anthony Davis could receive playing time against the Saints as well.
“I won’t say that at this time,” Gruden said of possible personnel changes. “We have nine players out of the lineup right now. We are as deep into the roster as anybody in history of football in the fourth week of the season. Kenyatta will play, you might see Mahan in some isolated situation, and you might see Anthony Davis play at some point.”
However, the most significant change could be made at quarterback, where Gruden stopped short of naming Brad Johnson his starter for the game in New Orleans.
“I do not want to make any starting jobs known right now,” Gruden said when asked who would start at quarterback for the Bucs this week. “We are going to have a long meeting here today and tomorrow. We are going to try to rally the troops the best we can. We are going to talk to the trainer and find out who is up and who is down. We will go from there.”
Johnson has completed 63.1 percent of his pass attempts for 674 yards and has tossed three touchdowns and three interceptions this season. Although Gruden has been quick to defend Johnson and acknowledge the fact that the Bucs’ receiving corps are depleted, the head coach pulled Johnson in favor of Chris Simms during second quarter of Tampa Bay’s Week 2 contest against Seattle.
That said, the Bucs could opt to bench Johnson and go with Simms or Brian Griese this Sunday.
“Brian was the backup quarterback yesterday,” said Gruden. “A 29-year-old guy, good player. Simms is a promising young player. The plan is to keep working with him. Brad Johnson is as frustrated as they come right now. It’s been tough on him. We are going to keep developing our young arms. When their time comes we expect them to be ready.”
Gruden didn’t rule out the possibility of a change or two being made on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bucs allowed the Broncos to convert 47 percent of their third down attempts and eat up all but a few seconds of the final seven minutes that remained in the fourth quarter when the Bucs offense needed the ball back.
“We have a lot of young guys playing over there,” said Gruden. “We have a lot of young guys playing. (Defensive end) Dewayne White’s playing. We’re playing just about everybody we have. You can make a case for Anthony Davis. You can also say Derrick Deese played pretty good yesterday. You can make a case for Mahan. You can say (guard) Cosey Coleman played pretty good yesterday. You can make a case for Chris Simms. You can make a case for all of the young guys. That’s a good thing for a change around here, to have some young guys that people are excited about.”
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